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What is a gift card?

gift card (also known as a gift certificate in North America, or gift voucher or gift token in the UK) is a prepaid stored-value money card usually issued by a retailer or bank to be used as an alternative to cash for purchases within a particular store or related businesses. Gift cards are also given out by retailers and marketers as part of a promotion strategy, to entice the recipient to come in or return to the store, and at times such cards are called cash cards. Gift cards are generally redeemable only for purchases at the relevant retail premises and cannot be cashed out, and in some situations may be subject to an expiry date or fees. Visa and MasterCard credit cards produce generic gift cards which need not be redeemed at particular stores, and which are widely used for cash back marketing strategies. A feature of these cards is that they are generally anonymous and are disposed of when the stored value on a card is exhausted.

What are the different types of gift cards?

Options available are:

Physical gift card – A preloaded plastic card with specified amount delivered via postal mail, processed like debit/credit card at checkout

Digital gift card – Delivered via e-mail to the recipient, the benefits being that they cannot be lost and that the consumer does not have to drive to the bricks and mortar location to purchase a gift card. Digital cards can be found at

Mobile gift cards – Delivered to mobile phones via email or SMS and phone apps allowing users to carry only their cell phone. Security benefits include tying them to a particular phone number and ease of distribution.